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75-year-old Gyan Mehta resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, Laurie, who is blind and is supported by her guide dog, Nisbit. Over many years, their lives have been enhanced by the devoted care of six service dogs.

Confident Laurie was in good hands with Nisbit, in mid-November, Gyan flew to Durham, North Carolina, for a week-long trip to see his elder brother, sister-in-law, niece and her husband.

“I wanted to see my brother since he is not in good health, having suffered a stroke several months ago. It was to be a short, family visit, including a Diwali program with my grand-niece at Elon on November 12 and Diwali fireworks with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her family.”

A Wake Up Call Like No Other

On November 13, 2023, just before 5:00 am, Gyan woke up suddenly, feeling disoriented. He discovered he could barely speak, and his right-side arm and leg were numb and unresponsive. He fell down upon attempting to walk. Despite falling, he managed to drag himself to a desk near his bed, where his laptop and smartphone were located. However, he found it extremely difficult to type with his fingers and use the phone.

“I was unable to alert my brother and sister-in-law as they were in another part of the house.”

After struggling, Gyan managed to call his wife in Ohio. Although his speech was garbled and unintelligible, she recognized it was Gyan. She soon understood the severity of the situation, identified it as a stroke and promptly informed him that she would seek help.

Signs of a Stroke

Following this call to his wife, Gyan struggled for about five minutes but managed to dial 911 on his phone — though by this point, he was unable to speak at all.

“I was unaware of my brother’s address, as it was a new location for me. I kept the 911 operator on the line, hoping he/she would be able to locate me by my phone signal, which I later learned did happen.”

Meanwhile, Gyan’s wife attempted to reach family in the area.

“She contacted my niece and brother, among others. Fortunately, my niece and her husband — who are both doctors — were awake at 5:00 am, so while no one in the home was awake, local family had been alerted.”

Shortly after Gyan’s 911 call, his niece’s husband also called 911. In the interim, they were successful in reaching Gyan’s brother and sister-in-law.

“The two of them rushed into my room to check on me, and my sister-in-law kept reassuring me that help was en route.”

Swift Help Arrives

Emergency medical services (EMS) soon arrived and quickly sprang into action.

“The EMS team was great,” shares Gyan. “I was able to take my wallet and phone with me in the ambulance. They took me straight to nearby Duke Hospital where I was received a computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which showed I was suffering from an ischemic stroke and was a candidate for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Though conscious, I could not speak, so the quick-thinking young doctor asked to use my phone, pointed it at my face to unlock it and called my wife, who was able to speak with him and give permission for the use of tPA. Meanwhile, I also received a text message from my daughter-in-law (who is a neurologist) and from my son in California who told the medical team that if I was a candidate for tPA, they should give it to me.”

After tPA treatment, Gyan fell asleep and woke up to find his niece, who lived in the area, had arrived. His eldest son also flew to Durham to be with Gyan, and his younger son flew to Ohio to help his wife. A few days before Thanksgiving, Gyan’s wife and younger son arrived, so they could be together for the holiday.

He remained as an inpatient at Duke Hospital for nine days. Over that period of time, Gyan’s ability to move his right side and speak gradually began to return.

A Transfer to WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital for Continued Recovery

On November 21, Gyan was transferred to the WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital where he received exceptional care to continue restoration of his mobility and speech.

“I received intense physical, occupational and speech therapy. The therapists were extremely good, and the therapy helped me to progressively improve.”

Physical therapist, Sara Lingle, DPT, is grateful to have met the family and provide Gyan’s care.

“He was motivated and knew he needed to get well quickly to support his wife. We did a lot of dynamic balance activities. He had some foot drop, so we worked on interventions to improve his gait and prevent him from falling. We incorporated strength training to improve his functional mobility. We decided to include Pistachio, our therapy dog, and his handler, Elizabeth Penny, in his care since he walks his wife’s dog at home. Our goal was to make his therapy as functional as possible.”

Occupational therapist Alison Mattox, OTR/L, also had important goals for his recovery.

“When he came in, he had some good return in his right arm, but he had some coordination deficits, so that was our main goal for his recovery. We worked on medication management and the coordination required to manage his pill schedule and place them in a med box. Since we knew he had a dog to care for, we needed to ensure he’d be able to feed the dog, get his water bowl, place it down without spillage and walk the dog. As part of his therapy, we incorporated Penny and Pistachio into his care. It worked out great. He has come a long way, and he is doing wonderfully.”

Rehabbing with Pistachio meant a lot to Gyan since he cared for his wife’s guide dog back in Ohio, and this care also helped with his own mental health.

“I love dogs, and my wife’s guide dogs have been an important part of our lives over the past several decades.”

Penny also recalls great memories of working with Gyan.

“I showed up with Pistachio on a Friday morning, and we walked downstairs to the WakeMed Rehabilitation Healthpark. Laurie, his wife, said this was important for him because caring for her dogs over the years always helped to lower his blood pressure. We ended up doing ten laps with Pistachio around the Healthpark with no device, and Gyan did amazing.”

A Poem for WakeMed’s Sara Lingle from Gyan Mehta

Gyan is incredibly grateful to his entire WakeMed care team, especially Pistachio as Pistachio gave him the assurance that he could continue to care for his wife’s seeing eye dog.

Yet, Gyan spent the bulk of his time with physical therapist Lingle who helped orchestrate his time with Pistachio. He wrote a poem in her honor to express his heartfelt gratitude.

In the realm of healing, where strength meets care,
There stands a guide, a beacon rare.
SARA, the therapist, with a heart so kind,
In the tapestry of recovery, she’s intricately twined.

Post-stroke, I stumbled, lost in the maze,
Yet, Sara appeared, a sunbeam’s gaze.
Her hands, a compass, guiding my way,
Through valleys of challenges, towards a brighter day.

With expertise refined and a spirit so warm,
Sara, the healer, in the eye of the storm.
She asked of my toes, a challenge, so sweet,
To lift small bean bags, a feat to repeat.

My right leg, a warrior weakened in strife,
Found strength anew, in the dance of life.
Bean bags, once toys, now tools of grace,
In Sara’s hands, a journey to embrace.

Toes that once danced on Rubik’s cubes with flair,
Now picked up bean bags, suspended in air.
A testament to progress, a symbol so clear,
Of resilience and hope, banishing every fear.

My wife of 41 years, witnessed with delight,
The Rubik’s cube solved, a fascinating sight.
Amused and amazed, as the tale unfolds,
Now enchanted anew, as recovery molds.

Sara, the architect of my healing art,
Rebuilding foundations, mending the heart.
In her presence, a symphony, a harmonious song,
Of restoration and courage, where I belong.

Through each session, a puzzle untangled,
A Rubik’s cube of life, by my toes, handled.
In Sara’s care, a partnership formed,
A narrative rewritten, a spirit transformed.

So here I stand, on the brink of the unknown,
With Sara by my side, seeds of strength sown.
In recovery’s embrace, hand in hand,
I navigate the healing, a journey unplanned.

To the one named Sara, a guide so true,
Whose touch rekindles the strength I once knew.
In the dance of recovery, we gracefully sway,
For a brighter tomorrow, together we pray.

The Healing Journey Continues

On December 5, Gyan prepared to fly out to California to continue his recovery.

“California made the most sense as our next step because both of my sons, daughters-in-law and six grandchildren live there. I am determined to continue in my recovery.”

Once he is settled in, during the upcoming holidays and entering the new year, Gyan looks forward to enjoying and appreciating the blessings of being with family — thanks to the swift and intensive work of his medical teams.

“I am grateful for the wonderful and professional care I’ve received in North Carolina.”

About the WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital

The WakeMed Rehabilitation Hospital is a 103-bed, nationally accredited rehabilitation hospital in Raleigh, NC with the largest number of rehab beds under one roof than any other rehab hospital in the entire state. We offer specialty rehab programming for spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, amputee and pediatric patients. Our team consists of highly experienced therapists who specialize in treating the most complex patients. With the positive support of our team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, case managers and physicians, our patients work hard to achieve the best possible outcomes and return to their lives. WakeMed Rehabilitation offers a full continuum of physical rehabilitation services from the acute care setting through inpatient rehab in our CARF-accredited rehabilitation hospital, intensive day treatment, home health, outpatient rehabilitation.

About the WakeMed Stroke Program

Each year, thousands of families in our community are impacted by stroke — a brain attack that can occur at any age.

At WakeMed, we offer a full continuum of compassionate, innovative stroke care — from diagnosis in our emergency departments to rehabilitation in both our award-winning inpatient and outpatient facilities.

As leaders in stroke care, we also collaborate with less capable hospitals through our Telestroke Program to ensure that patients in various regions of the state receive the timely support required to recover from stroke.

WakeMed Raleigh Campus and Cary Hospital received the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for Stroke Care.

Our Stroke Program is distinct in providing a comprehensive approach, moving from prevention to management. Our dedicated team of specialists, renowned for their expertise, use physical medicine and rehabilitative techniques at strategic steps along the route to recovery to support the best outcomes.

WakeMed Rehab & Physical Therapy